Home to some of the immense oil wealth, major ports and a booming tourism sector, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become a global center of trade, finance & travel. With cities like Dubai & Abu Dhabi offering opulent shopping, world class dining, and some of the world's most stunning architecture, the Emirates have become a major destination for tourists and investors alike. These attractions, along with some of the world's most lucrative salaries and benefits also make the United Arab Emirates one of the most desirable destinations for teaching English abroad.
The UAE is divided into seven emirates, with Dubai being the most populous as well as the most popular, followed by Abu Dhabi. The population of the UAE is around 9.2 million, with over three-fourths of the UAE residents being expatriates. The nation is investing heavily in English language education and offers salaries for English teachers that are among the highest in the world. Combined with its small size, this has made the UAE one of the most competitive job markets in the world for teaching English abroad. In many cases, simply having a TEFL certification does not necessarily qualify you for positions there. This article will break down the full requirements for securing English teaching positions in this region.
Degree and Citizenship Requirements:
At a minimum, English teachers will need to possess a bachelor’s degree in addition to their TEFL certification. With that said, many school’s in the UAE will require teachers to possess a degree specifically in education or a master’s degree (often in any field), and many will strongly prefer candidates to have previous teaching experience and/or a teaching license from a country like the U.S or the U.K.
Be persistent & flexible in your job search.
Even if you do possess more advanced credentials, you should be extremely diligent and flexible in your job search & remain open to the idea of teaching in markets outside of the UAE if you are not finding suitable work within your preferred job search time frame. With a little teaching experience, your odds of being hired there without a graduate degree will increase greatly.
If you are looking for a fantastic experience in the heart of the Middle East where you can still earn great salaries and benefits, consider other countries in the region like Oman and Saudi Arabia. There are also exponentially more jobs in Asia, in countries like South Korea & China, where English teachers commonly receive benefits like free housing & airfare and typically save 30%-50% of their monthly salary after expenses.
Does this mean that you should only consider applying for jobs in the UAE if you possess a graduate degree and teaching experience?
No! TEFL certified English instructors who only have an undergraduate degree can still be hired in this region, especially in lesser known cities like Sharjah or Al Ain.
Most schools will require applicants to be native English speakers who are citizens of The United States, Canada, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. However, many candidates who do not speak English as their first language, or are not from one of the aforementioned countries can still secure work in the UAE if they have a graduate degree and/or teaching experience (not to mention a bit of luck).
For a firsthand perspective on teaching English in the UAE, check out:
Alumni Q&A: Teaching English Al Ain, UAE with Lieke Palies
Many schools and universities begin in August-September, so spring and summer tend to be excellent times to look for jobs, but job vacancies do open throughout the year. Most teachers are interviewed and hired in advance from their own country and have their visa processed prior to their departure for their teaching destination. Many schools will use recruiting agencies to manage the hiring process. To receive their visa, teachers should expect to pass a physical and an HIV test, and in many cases, academic transcripts and a criminal background check may also be necessary. Expect the processes of interviewing and procuring a visa to take at least 1-3 months.
We recommend that all people interested in teaching in the UAE have at least $1,000-$1,500 saved for their arrival. Most employers will provide housing, and many will provide airfare, but new teachers will still want to have some money accessible as they settle in for the first month or so. Making back your start-up costs is very manageable, as most English teachers in the UAE can save anywhere from $800-$3,000 per month, after expenses.
The UAE is extremely diverse, with people from all over the world coming to live and work in one of the fastest growing and dynamic countries on earth. Yet despite the influx of foreigners, Emirati culture remains steeped in its Arabian roots. In addition to being financially lucrative, the UAE provides English teachers with exceptional access to a truly rich cultural experience.
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- Teaching English in United Arab Emirates - Country Profile
- What are Salaries for English Teachers in the Middle East?
- Top 5 Countries to Make the Most Money Teaching English Abroad
- Teaching English in the Middle East - Job Index (Country Profiles)
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on September 2, 2017. It was most recently updated for freshness & accuracy on December 30, 2019.
About the Author: Michael Kunik
A Michigan native, Michael has more than 10 years of experience working in the fields of education, both abroad and in the Chicago public school system. In 2009, Michael became TEFL Certified and moved to Madrid, Spain to teach English. Invariably, whenever asked about his experience, his answer is the same: “Next to marrying my wife, choosing to move abroad was the best decision I have ever made in my life.” Michael holds a Master's Degree in Education from DePaul University and is one of ITA's most senior advisors. He has also published numerous articles about teaching English abroad & TEFL certification.